Pat Smear, who’s back with the Germs after stints with Nirvana and Foo Fighters, says, “I always go on the assumption no one knows about us ’cause we never left LA, but I’ve met people on tour who know all kinds of shit — more than we realized.” He’s amused by the “haters who say, ‘How dare we play without Darby?’ ” — as he puts it backstage at Axis, “That’s from kids who weren’t even born then.”
Although they emerged from the same scene, the Germs and the Adolescents are slightly different beasts. The Adolescents favor speed, snarl, and pop hooks; the Germs have the speed and the snarl but an almost total disregard for hooks. Both keep their songs and their sets short. But the Germs reunion has less to do with keeping Smear and company off their couches than with a film about the band — a bio-pic — that features singer Shane West (who famously plays a doc on ER) in the role of Darby Crash. Smear says the film’s 85 percent done. “We’re a Hollywood band, so it fits right in. I don’t think Val Kilmer ever toured with the Doors. For the movie, I work on the music, and we have actors playing the band. Shane’s great, perfect. It’s been so long, it’s hard to really remember what it was like back then.”
“I was four,” West says of his age when Darby died. (He was born in June of ’78, so he was really two.) He admits that playing Darby is a challenging role, but when it comes to the tour he’s more circumspect: “It’s not really me trying to channel him. It’s having the opportunity to sing for the fans.” And Smear’s down with the program: “It felt right instantly — the instant we started playing together,” he says of West. “I forgot how much I loved being in a punk-rock band.”
At Axis the Germs’ 55-minute, 22-song buzzsaw blur of a set was a constant crash-and-burn, with West all over the stage. Smear kept a fierce, maniacal grin on his face, Doom a gentler one. True to Crash form, the lyrics were all but indecipherable. Near they end, they raised a champagne birthday toast to drummer Don Bolles. Nobody asked his age.
Formed in 1979, the San Francisco quartet Flipper were both part of the loud, fast hardcore scene and almost completely its antithesis. Their songs — “Sex Bomb,” “Ha Ha Ha,” “Way of the World” — were one- or two-chord constructions that would trudge on and on at glacial speed, with both guitar and bass darkly distorted to create a fat rumbling sound. And they just loved repetition. The lyrics to the seven-plus minute “Sex Bomb”: “She’s a sex bomb, my baby, yeah.” Nasty, caustic, sarcastic, and messed-up were all part of the Flipper ideal. Or as founding drummer Steve DePace puts it over the phone from the Bay Area, there was “a lot of irony and contradiction.” Like the Germs, Flipper nailed it with their classic debut, 1982’s Album: Generic Flipper. But they stumbled on until Shatter’s heroin overdose, breaking up in ’87 only to reunite briefly in ’93 at the behest of Rick Rubin to record the subpar American Gravishy for Rubin’s American Recordings label.
BACK IN THE DAY: Nasty, caustic, sarcastic, and messed-up were all part of the Flipper ideal
“We had the initial run, a real magical time,” DePace remembers. He calls the band’s current incarnation, with founding guitarist Ted Falconi and founding bassist/singer Bruce Loose, “the third evolution. Good or bad, time will tell. We feel the opportunity has presented itself: there’s still no one out there like Flipper.”